Weber-Stephen is one of the oldest and most respected manufacturers of BBQ equipment and related accessories in the world. Weber grills and smokers cook beautifully and have great features that are clever, effective and easy to use. As popularity and demand for BBQ gear grows worldwide, Weber continues to earn their long standing reputation for quality, durability and outstanding customer service and support in an increasingly competitive environment. Even in this crowded marketplace, many consumers are still willing to pay more for the Weber name and they are rarely disappointed. They make a variety of cookers and smokers. Their iconic black charcoal kettles are known throughout the world. Indeed Weber is expanding globally.
Weber-Stephen was family owned since it was founded in 1952 by George Stephen. At the end of 2010 the Stephen family sold a majority stake to Chicago investment group BDT Capital Partners. In 2012, Weber settled a class action suit out of court regarding their use of the phrase, "Made in USA". Weber previously qualified the "Made in USA" statement by specifying their products are assembled in the USA with some components that are sourced globally. Here is an excerpt from Weber's statement "Weber believes that because all Weber grills and the disputed accessories are designed and engineered in the USA, and all grills save for one line [Spirit] are manufactured and assembled in the USA using component parts primarily made in the USA, it did nothing wrong and therefore has valid defenses to plaintiff's claims. The court has not held a trial or ruled in favor of either party on any disputed issues. Weber and the plaintiff have agreed to settle the matter to avoid the costs of continued litigation." As a result of this suit, Weber can no longer claim to be made in America.
Things change, but we believe Weber's commitment to quality and innovation has not.
The biggest barrier for many folks is price. Webers are not cheap, but when you consider that they last decades, the price is easy to justify. In fact, when you consider the fact that some cheap grills fall apart after three years or so, Webers might be considered a bargain.
Our main complaint: All Webers have the obligatory bi-metal dial thermometer in the hood that gives you a ballpark reading of what the temperature is high above the meat. Since we cook on the grates, though, it's always better to bring your own digital thermometer and place a probe there. It would be nice if they would go digital in the digital age.
Weber Charcoal Grills
In 2015 Weber changed the names of several popular charcoal grills and added a few new features. Don't worry though, they are still the iconic kettles you grew up with. These classic grills have played a big part in BBQ history and helped spread the joy of outdoor cooking across America and beyond. The 22.5" kettle is by far the most popular backyard grill in the world for under a hundred dollars. The body and lid are pressed from solid sheets of steel so there are no welds to rust, and coated with a durable powder coated baked on porcelain enamel that lasts for decades. The lower intake vents double as an ash collection system and the three legs with two wheels make rolling it around a snap. It is lightweight, there are few parts, and simplicity reigns. The lids fit tightly so oxygen control, and therefore heat control, is very good. And, with the exception of the Ranch Kettle, they are inexpensive.
AmazingRibs.com science advisor, Dr. Greg Blonder, observes, "Most people believe the Weber is a parabolic reflector, focusing heat emitted by the coals directly on the grill. A parabolic reflector is only effective when the heat source is tiny, intense and located at the focal point. This is not true in the case of the Weber, where the heat source is a sheet of coals spread over a large area. On the other hand, the Weber gets many things right. While the parabola won't create a beam of infra-red energy, the high almost vertical side walls reflect the infra-red image of the coals from side to side- like images of your head pinging back and forth between two mirrors at the barbershop. So this 'reflection gallery effect' does increase the heat intensity a bit compared to cooking over an open pit, where heat emitted to the sides is lost. The system is efficient, burning a minimum number of briquets during cooking." Probably no other single invention has influenced the American diet more since the invention of the electric refrigerator.
Weber Charcoal Grills are offered in four basic configurations: the small, portable Smokey Joe Series, the larger One-Touch kettles on three legs, the Performer Series mounted on carts and the oversize Ranch Kettle. They also offer three models of the popular Weber Smokey Mountain smokers.
Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22.5"
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22.5" is the newest and largest version of their popular charcoal smoker. WSMs are high quality, charcoal fueled, bullet-shaped smokers. They can often be seen competing head to head with large commercial cookers at practically every competition. And winning. They take very little time to master, and there are a lot of tricks the experts use to produce incredible food.
Like the original 18.5" WSM, this big unit cooks at a remarkably steady temp for hours and raising or lowering temp is fairly easy by opening and closing the vents. Problem is we had difficulty getting it down under 275°F. We like to smoke at 225-250°F. At 275°F meat can get tough. There are tricks you can employ to get it down, but it is tricky. That's why we gave it a silver medal. The smaller model loves to cook at 225°F, and it gets our gold medal.
The big advantage to the 22.5" model is capacity. The grates are 21" across compared to 15.5" on the little unit. You can actually get a few slabs of ribs to lay comfortably on the grates without cutting them in half or bending them. You should be able to fit up to eight five-pound pork butts with plenty of room for smoke to circulate. At right is shown a whole center cut pork loin with room to spare.
Construction is solid and finish is beautiful. Weber really knows how to make long lasting porcelain and chrome coatings. The legs are sturdy and there is a bowl-shaped aluminum heat shield attached to them. If you cook on a wood deck, we recommend setting your WSM on a grill mat.
It has an inaccurate bi-metal thermometer built into the lid, but in 2014 they added a soft grommet on the right side for easy insertion of your digital thermometer. There is a side door for adding coal, wood, and water, although adding water and lit coals through the door is tricky. The door leaks smoke and lets in oxygen, making it hard to shut down the supply of oxygen and kill the coals. We bent ours slightly to make it fit better, but wondered how Weber could craft the door so poorly after crafting the other parts so well.
The water pan in this big guy is huge, and you need to add more water than you think it needs because of the increased surface area. Also, it is waaaay to large to fit flat in a standard sink for cleanup, and you can't line it with foil easily because it is wider than even the largest sized consumer grade foil. Hopefully someone will market a disposable pan liner.
We also wish WSM had a wider lid. It rests inside a lip in the center section allowing rain and melting snow to get in. We would prefer that the lid overlap the center section, just like the lid on the Weber Kettle.
If you are trying to decide between the Smokey Mountain 18.5" and the 22.5", keep in mind that a full slab of ribs will not fit onto the grates of the smaller unit without some trickery, and if the meat gets too close to the sides the heat rising around the water pan can scorch it. On the other hand, it is hard to get temp down below 275F on the 22.5 incher.
The WSM has a fanatical following and a good independent website devoted to its use.